Talking to Teens about Mental Health
Today is a great day to start the conversation about the importance of mental health and emotional wellbeing, yet today should not be the only day. Make these types of discussions regular and ongoing. That would be great if you manage to maintain the connection, remain open for conversation and be ready to answer their questions without judgement and criticism.
Connecting to the teen may seem harder as they fiercely defend their independence, yet deep inside, they do need this connection more than ever. So here are a few key messages to share with your teen to open the dialogue.
Most importantly, do the groundwork and discuss the changes your child is going through. We tend to talk to kids about their physical changes, sometimes awkwardly discussing things like puberty sexual development, yet neglecting the bursts of growth that happen in teenage years mentally and emotionally. Know your stuff and read about brain development and the effect of hormones, and make sure to raise your teen’s awareness as well. There are many books and online resources about that.
And when talking about mental health, keep in mind the following:
– It is an integral part of our life, and by maintaining good mental health and a positive outlook on life, we can cope with stress, feel good about ourselves and others and be ready to face the challenges with a positive mindset.
– Like our physical health, our mental health can change for better or worse, and it is essential to keep an eye on worrying signs.
– Beware of social media messages and stereotypes surrounding mental health. It very often fails to portray the reality of mental illnesses, on one side making it almost popular among modern celebrities and on the other stigmatising it and making it sounds embarrassing and shameful.
– We all have good and bad days. And THAT’S OK. It is normal to feel low at times of conflict, stress, disappointment and other adverse situations. The most important thing here is to start to feel better once things improve rather than feeling stuck in the negative moment.
– If it feels too hard to get “unstuck” and a negative mindset has been going on for a while, the best solution is to speak to a trusted adult, rather than keeping it inside or sharing with friends only. Remind your teen that you are always there to listen. Still, if they feel uncomfortable speaking to you, they can always have a conversation with their sports coach, teacher, school counsellor, or you can arrange for a session with a professional.
Encourage your teen to speak to a mental health professional if you notice the following signs in your teen’s mood and behaviour:
– Problems with concentration and memory
– Inability to think and word their thoughts clearly
– Changes in appetite and sleeping patterns
– Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or worthless
– Social isolation and avoidance of friends
– Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
– Constant worry and overwhelming anxiety
– Irritability or restlessness
– Changes in sleep
– Outbursts of uncontrollable anger
– Self-harming of any kind
– Suicidal thoughts…
And make sure they know that no matter what their thoughts, words and actions are from time to time, you love them unconditionally. And they are amazing, just the way they are.
If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.
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